When a 4-foot rattlesnake slithered into Holly Lenz's home Sunday afternoon, apparently headed for her 2-year-old son's bedroom, it was Lucy the adopted cat that sounded the alarm.
Lenz was outside in the sun, reading a book, when Lucy began hissing loudly. Lenz rushed inside and found the snake in a hallway, face to face with the cat, apparently trying to escape to the boy's bedroom. As Lucy kept the snake cornered, Lenz called police, who in turn alerted animal control authorities.
When the ordeal was over the snake was dead, Lucy was being examined at an animal clinic and all the humans--Adam the toddler, three police officers and an animal control worker--were safe.
"These three large, burly policemen stood well away and this little tiny woman from animal control went right in," Lenz said. "This little woman was fearless. She went right at it with one of those poles with a noose on it and got him by the head.
"I don't think they pay these people enough."
Lenz, 36, said the snake thrashed around when it was captured. Once it was taken outside, she said, a sheriff's deputy clubbed it with a shovel, chopping off its head.
"Where are you going to relocate a 4-foot rattlesnake?" Lenz said. "I mean it's sad but what were they going to do with him? So they buried the head in my back yard because it is poisonous for 24 hours, and they took the body away."
Ronald Wheeler of the Orange County Animal Control office said snakes are commonly seen this time of year in the coastal desert areas such as Laguna Niguel, as well
as in other areas of the county.
The reptiles usually don't move into people's homes, Wheeler said, but they are more active during spring and summer when temperatures are warmer, often entering lawns and sunning themselves.
Rattlesnakes usually strike only when they have been approached and challenged, Wheeler said.
"Typically, the people who get bit are those who are surprised by the snake."
As for Lenz, she said she won't keep the sliding glass door to her bedroom open any more and will be more aware of the wildlife that abounds in South County. She said Lucy the cat, while fearless with the snake, needs a few lessons on dealing with people.
"The minute the police showed up, my cat went under the bed," Lenz said. "She's not afraid of the rattlesnake but she's afraid of other people."